Legal Philosophy and the Social Sciences
Nicola Lacey on the Hart-Fuller Debate
Thursday 16th May, 5.30 pm - preceded by coffee and tea at 5.15 -
Law Faculty Senior Common Room
In her contribution to a recent collection of essays on the debate between H.L.A. Hart and Lon L. Fuller, Nicola Lacey identifies the methodological assumptions on which Hart’s defence of legal positivism was grounded and according to which Fuller’s response was sure to be assessed. She compares Hart’s preference for philosophy with Fuller’s wider interests, which extended to various social sciences, and argues convincingly that Fuller was hindered not only by the narrow terms of the debate, which Hart inevitably set, but also by his own qualms about those social sciences to which he was amenable, including his doubts about their bearing on philosophical analysis. Lacey regrets that Fuller was stymied in these ways and calls for legal philosophers to heed the research of social scientists. In this paper, I strive to make sense of the approach that she favours by looking at some of her other work as well as at work by some others, not all of whom are like-minded. Scrutiny of her position requires attention to the ongoing and vital discussion to which it relates. I set out her view and then confront it with two alternatives, both of which deny that legal philosophy and the social sciences can be related in the way that she recommends. By these means, I try to grasp Lacey’s methodological proposal and, with it, yet another aspect of the legacy of the Hart- Fuller debate.